The growing importance of consumer redressal in the digital era
The digital age has ushered in a new era of customer expectations. Consumers have the ability to access anything from almost anywhere and comparison shopping has become easier than ever before.
Traditionally, companies thought that once they had the customer, the customer was theirs and they need not do anything else. In the digital era, things are different, with the consumer being more informed and engaged. Customer loyalty is no longer automatic. Businesses need to be adaptive to meet consumer needs. Organizations should strive to provide prompt and efficient services to their consumers. They should take all possible steps to minimize instances of consumer complaints/grievances and ensure their prompt redressal.
Consumer redressal policy
A review mechanism should be in place which will help to identify shortcomings in products/services and minimize customer dissatisfaction. A company’s redressal policy should be prepared on the principles of natural justice and fairness. Employees of the company should be trained, so as to sensitize them on effectively handling customer complaints. Companies should advise the customer about its redressal policy, how and whom to make a complaint, when to expect a reply, and what to do if not satisfied with the outcome.
Steps taken by the Government
The current Government has acknowledged that the growth of the economy depends on the purchasing power of the consumer. It has stressed the importance of consumer grievance redressal with an idea to resolve new India. The Government has introduced a series of legal reforms, with a view to protect consumer interest, some of which are as below:
- The Government introduced a new Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 in the Lok Sabha on January 5, 2018, with a view to overhauling the current Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The bill proposes several measures after taking into account the changing nature of the Indian economy, especially in the online sphere. These include the establishment of a Central Consumer Protection Authority, class action suits, stringent provisions for tackling misleading advertisements, product liability with powers to the regulator to recall, provision for mediation for simpler and quicker adjudication, the filing of online complaints, etc.
- The government has also ensured reliability and accuracy of all weights and measures through Legal Metrology Act.
- The labelling and packaging guidelines under various laws, such as Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011, Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, and Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 mandate declaration of certain basic information, such as maximum retail price, etc. to safeguard consumer interest.
- The Real Estate Regulation & Development Act (RERA) has come as a big saviour for property consumers. With stringent preventive and punitive provisions, RERA has put an end to consumer exploitation by unscrupulous developers by making transactions fair, transparent, and secure.
- Under the Bureau of Indian Standard Act (BIS), any commodity/service related to public or consumer interest can be brought under compulsory certification. BIS also has provisions to order the recall of substandard products and for compensation in case of loss or damages incurred by the consumer.
- With the introduction of Goods and Service Tax, a more transparent system of taxation has been put in place, which in the long run is intended to promulgate consumer interests.
- In today’s digital age, brands have the opportunity to leverage a wealth of data that they hold to provide world-class customer experiences. Whilst doing so, organizations need to be mindful of the right of privacy of their customers. Customers’ personal information should be kept confidential unless they have offered specific consent or where such disclosure is required under law.
With all this, gone are the days where the ‘consumer was asked to beware’. With the increased redressal options available to a consumer and competition, a consumer is now the one who assumes to be treated like a king.
Consumer complaints are the first step of redressal that the customer takes for protection of interests. In the time of the internet and social media, consumer complaints and feedback have more power than ever. A small mistake can sometimes ruin a brand’s reputation which may have been built over years. It is therefore important that an organization treat consumer complaints positively and constructively. Consumer complaints can actually help an organization improve their products and services. It is a great form of feedback. Having a robust consumer redressal policy and ensuring its strict compliance will go a long way in ensuring customer satisfaction, and consequently building a strong brand.
Stuti Galiya is Counsel at Khaitan & Co. Views of the author are personal, and should not be considered as views of Khaitan & Co.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)